TSD 40: 20 C+M+B 20

Get your house blessed!

Erratum: Last week I said that January 2 was the Feast of the Holy Name in the Extraordinary Form. It was January 2 last year, and I consulted last year’s calendar not realizing the feast is not always held on the same day. It is normally on the Sunday between January 1 and Epiphany, thus it is Sunday, January 5, this year.

These Seven Days…

…in the Ordinary Form

It is the Epiphany of the Lord. The readings are Isaiah 60:1-6; Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6; and Matthew 2:1-12. Traditionally celebrated on January 6th and serving as the close to the Twelve Days of Christmas (see below), in the new calendar (in places where it is not a holy day of obligation) Epiphany gets bumped to the first Sunday in January other than January 1.

For much of the history of the Western Church, Epiphany was the celebration of the season, including elements of Christ’s birth, His revelation to the world, and His baptism. Over time these elements got parceled out to their own feasts, resulting in the rise of Christmas as the dominant celebration and the Baptism being commemorated a week later: The Sunday after Epiphany is now explicitly dedicated to this event.

The readings focus on the theme of Christ’s identity as Messiah for all the world, not just the Jews. Thus we read from Ephesians:

It was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

This reflection on the state of mind of the Magi is ascribed to a Pseudo-Chrysostom:

Mary His mother, not crowned with a diadem or laying on a golden couch; but with barely one garment, not for ornament but for covering, and that such as the wife of a carpenter when abroad might have. Had they therefore come to seek an earthly king, they would have been more confounded than rejoiced, deeming their pains thrown away. But now they looked for a heavenly King; so that though they saw nought of regal state, that star’s witness sufficed them, and their eyes rejoiced to behold a despised Boy, the Spirit shewing Him to their hearts in all His wonderful power, they fell down and worshipped, seeing the man, they acknowledged the God.

This is the feast of the universality of Christ and the Faith: That these powerful men of the world should seek out and then recognize Him for who He is, despite the evidence of their eyes, shows us that every man can do the same.

Antonio Vivarini’s fifteenth century depiction of the adoration of the Magi.

Monday, January 6, is the Feast of St. Andre Bessette. Little known outside of Canada, where he is revered as “Brother Andre,” this humble man had a profound role in my return to the sacraments over a decade ago, and I maintain a devotion to him. Born Alfred Bessette in 1845, St. Andre had a weak constitution from birth, and his family worried about his practices of mortification. Along with seven surviving siblings, he was orphaned at the age of twelve, then lived with family, then traveled to America to find solid work. Nothing took, and in his twenties he was presented to the Congregation of the Holy Cross. Sickly and physically unimpressive, the order initially rejected him; when he finally gained entrance, he took final vows at the age of 28 but never progressed beyond the rank and role of a porter.

Soon, though, little Brother Andre became a magnet for pilgrims: He had taken to rubbing a little lamp oil on sick and injured visitors to the College Notre-Dame, and they reported miraculous healings. The humble brother never accepted any credit for these miracles, always pointing to his heavenly patron, St. Joseph. Typically for holy men of such humility, he ran into trouble with some Church authorities, some suspecting him of fakery and others simply concerned about the logistics of all the pilgrims he drew to the college. This latter problem was soon solved, however, with the construction of a basilica, L’Oratoire St-Joseph, dedicated to Andre’s patron.

It was at this oratory, the largest church in Canada, that I began to feel the possibility of genuine faith once again. The walls of the original crypt church (much more lovely than the airy and somewhat spartan main church) are lined with early-twentieth-century crutches left by healed pilgrims. And this happened, which I wrote about in a column for my campus newspaper:

My strongest memory from the Oratoire is of a mother and her children, one of whom was confined to a wheelchair. They entered the chamber of the tomb of Brother Andre, where my family and I were situated. The entire family, including the sick son, pressed against the enormous ebony tomb, nearly caressing it, supplicating for an intercession. I could feel tears coming to my eyes from two separate emotions. I was profoundly moved by the remarkable faith of the family, which I could only hope to emulate. But I was also filled with an immense sadness, for through either nagging skepticism or simple unbelief, I could not help but feel their efforts would be futile. Standing in the shadows, though, intending just to observe, I almost unconsciously began silently, furiously praying for them.

This set in motion the series of events that culminated in my return to the sacraments.

Image result for andre bessette

Brother Andre died peacefully on this day in 1937. He was beatified in 1982 and canonized in 2010. For more on his life, consult this concise biographical sketch from the Dictionary of Canadian Biography.

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The enormous dome of L’Oratoire St-Joseph, said to be one of the largest in the world, towers over Montreal from its perch on Mont Royal.

…in the Extraordinary Form

It is the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus. Whereas in the new calendar the Feast of the Holy Name is kept on January 3 regardless of the day of the week, in the old calendar this feast is pegged to the Sunday between the Octave Day of Christmas (the Circumcision on January 1) and Epiphany unless there is no such Sunday, in which case it is on January 2, as it was in 2019. The Epistle for this Mass is Acts 4:8-12 and the Gospel is Luke 2:21. The reading from Acts highlight’s Peter’s bold proclamation before the Jewish hierarchy:

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said to them: Ye princes of the people, and ancients, hear: If we this day are examined concerning the good deed done to the infirm man, by what means he hath been made whole: Be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God hath raised from the dead, even by him this man standeth here before you whole.

On this, Haydock quotes St. John Chrysostom on using the name of the Lord in careless oaths:

From this, St. Chrysostom takes occasion to make several [emotional] exhortations against swearing and profaning this adorable name. What profit do you propose to yourselves by abusing this name? Is it to gain credit to your discourse? So you will tell me; but, believe me, you are mistaken: if people saw you respected oaths, and were afraid to make free with them, then they would believe you. Not when you give them to understand that you undervalue them, by your frequent abuse of them. Break then so profane a custom. It will cost you neither money nor labour to do so: you are not required to part with any gratification for this purpose. Use only at the beginning a little diligence, and you will easily overcome so idle a practice. Wish, and it is done.

The IHS Christogram above the name altar in the Jesuit mother church in Rome.

Monday, January 6, is the Epiphany of the Lord. The “Epistle” and Gospel have been carried over into the Ordinary Form: Isaiah 60:1-6 and Matthew 2:1-12. The introit for the Mass comes from Malachi 3:1 and Psalm 71(70):2, and is as follows:

Ecce advenit Dominator Dominus; et regnum in manu ejus, et potestas, et imperium. // Deus, judicium tuum regi da: et justitiam tuam Filio regis. Gloria Patri…

Behold the Lord the Rule is come: and the Kingdom is in His hand, and power, and dominion. // Give to the king Thy judgment, O God: and to the king’s son Thy justice. Glory be to the Father…

Dom Johner (pp. 79-80) calls the chant melody here “majestic, sublime!” He continues:

How the centuries watched for the arrival of this King and how ardent were their longings! How often have not the prayers and chants of Advent cried: Veni Domine! What a height did not these yearnings attain in the great O-antiphons immediately preceding the feast of Christmas! Even on the Saturday of Ember Week in Advent this cry was wrung from the heart of the Church: “Come, O Lord, and show Thy face to us, Thou that sittest upon the Cherubim: and we shall be saved”; this Veni acts as a prelude to our Ecce. Now the sighs have been heard and the longing has been stilled. Now we hear re-echo throughout the land: "Behold the Lord the Ruler is come." But He does not come empty-handed. He bears kingdoms in His hands: the kingdom of truth and of grace and the guarantee for the kingdom of glory.

Also at the Epiphany Mass there is the chant-announcement of the dates of the movable feasts for the upcoming year, traditionally in the same tone as the Easter Vigil’s Exsultet. Here are the dates, and here’s a link to the full English text from the USCCB.

  • Ash Wednesday: February 26

  • Easter: April 12

  • Ascension: May 21 (May 24 where transferred to Sunday)

  • Pentecost: May 31

  • Corpus Christi: June 14

  • First Sunday of Advent: November 29

Saturday, January 11, is the Feast of Pope St. Hyginus. Very little is known about him, but he’s the only feast in the 1962 calendar in the Octave of Epiphany (except the Holy Family, which is complicated, and which we’ll get into net week), so here he is. The St. Andrew Missal says he was martyred in the persecution of Hadrian, but the Catholic Encylopedia (whose entry is copied and pasted onto Wikipedia) says there’s no evidence of that. He was certainly the ninth pope, and he reigned from roughly 138 to roughly 142.

Those Seven Days


A punch in the gut tweet—and a bracing reminder of what Christmas sets in motion:

Intriguingly subtle Catholic commentary on political economy from the preconciliar era:

The ideal is, of course, for structural reasons all but impossible for us today—but that spirit of detachment and generosity most certainly is not:

Always all-in on Mary:

The good professor is using this to tweak the nationalists, but this also cuts against certain trends in the Church to adjust or dilute the Gospel for audiences perceived to be less receptive:

Tip Jar

yosemite national park rocks GIF by US National Archives

Tips go here

As for me…

the front cover of Plough Quarterly Winter 2020 Issue 23: In Search of a City

I’m looking forward to being in New York City later this month for the launch party for the current issue of Plough magazine, In Search of a City, to which I contributed. More information to come soon!

Feedback, &c.

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